As Android phones grow ever larger, so does the need for a quick way to launch apps one-handed. Try holding your Galaxy S III or Note 2 and launching an app with just one hand and you’ll see what I mean: It’s nearly impossible to reach all the way across the screen, making traditional “app drawer” launchers impractical.
It’s not that an app drawer is generally impractical – the drawers featured in Nova Launcher and other Android launchers are great, but I just wouldn’t want to use them while walking down the street holding a donut with my other hand. Just saying. For those cases, I need a quick, simple way to launch my favorite apps one-handed, and Sidebar Pro offers one such way.
Some Context, and a Video Review
Sidebar Pro Android app comes to us from Mohammad Adib, the same talented developer behind Floating Stickies which I’ve recently reviewed. Mohammad obviously understands how to make overlay-style apps for Android, and the same UX finesse he showed in Floating Stickies is apparent in Sidebar Pro as well. Since this is a very dynamic app, I find the best way to get a feel for it is by watching a video review, so here’s one from XDA:
Pro vs. Free
Sidebar comes in two flavors: A free version called Sidebar Lite, and a $2 version called Sidebar Pro. I’ve decided to go ahead and get the paid one so I could show you the complete feature set. Some of the benefits of the paid version include unlimited items on the sidebar, an unlimited amount of widgets, access to all of the settings (which you’ll see below), the ability to adjust the bar’s width, opacity, and color, and a way to disable the persistent notification and lock sidebar items. This doesn’t mean the free version isn’t useful – it offers the core functionality so you can decide if you even like the idea.
With Sidebar running, you launch it by swiping in from the side of the screen:
By default, it shows three shortcuts to favorite apps (Messaging, Browser, and Phone come preconfigured), and whatever apps you currently have running. This latter feature duplicates Android’s existing “Running Tasks” view (which you can launch by long-pressing the Home button), but in a more compact form.
By tapping the Plus button, you can add more apps to the bar for quick launching:
I have a pretty obscene amount of apps on my phone, so Sidebar took a moment to scan them all before rendering the menu. Unfortunately, this was not a one-time delay: The list of apps does not appear to be cached, so that every time I wanted to add a new app, I had to wait for a few seconds while Sidebar scanned my phone. This is not a major issue, however, since you likely won’t be adding new favorite apps on a daily basis (this is really for your few “go-to” apps).
The Sidebar Pro Android app also comes with a number of custom toggle widgets which you can add for quick access:
These are very similar to the statusbar toggles included with many Cyanogen-based ROMs, as well as those shipping with Samsung’s default ROMs. The only difference is that rather than access them by pulling down your notification menu, you can get at them by swiping from the side of the screen. I’ve added the Toggle Torch widget, which you can see as the last icon (the light bulb) in this screenshot
That’s handy, because it lets me switch on my phone’s back LED and use it as a flashlight in a pinch. Again, that’s something many ROMs offer, but it’s another way to get at that same feature.
Keen-eyed readers may notice that the last screenshot didn’t have the list of currently running apps. That’s because Sidebar configuration screen lets me toggle it off:
There aren’t very many options, but all of the important ones are there. You can move the sidebar to the other side of the screen and tweak its appearance in various ways.
One area where Sidebar Pro is annoyingly limited is reordering apps on the bar. I would expect to be able to drag-and-drop apps to change their sequence, but holding an app icon merely pops open this context menu:
The menu lets you insert a new item (so if you already know you want it in the middle, you can do that), remove an item, or select an icon. Sadly, icon selection is of limited use:
When I wanted to change the icon for an app, Sidebar let me choose one of two Gallery apps on my phone as a source – but failed to detect the icon pack I already have installed and offer it as a third source (something Nova Launcher does).
I am not sure if the Sidebar Pro Android app can replace my old favorite SwipePad, but I like its lean aesthetic. If it ever adds support for icon theme packs and a simple way to reorder apps on the bar, it would be just about perfect, and might even get a spot on our list of the Best Android Apps.
Are you going to try it out? If not, why not? Let me know below.